Which kanji reading to use on-yomi or kun-yomi

Q: Hi, Richard!  I love your site and videos! Would you mind telling me how to learn to pronounce the kanji? Even if I know what they mean, I’m still in trouble if I can’t pronounce them! My problem is that there seems to be so many different ways of doing that. I’ve heard of the kun-yomi and on-yomi readings, and I have a few resources to help me learn, but I still find them confusing. For example, I have heard that you pronounce the kanji for “fire” 火 as, “ka,” according to one of my sources. (The excellent Mangajin magazines.) However, the Kanji de Manga book I have lists, “hi,” “bi,” and “ka” as being possible pronunciations. Huh?! How do I know which one to use? I’d appreciate any advice you could give. I would love to be able to read Japanese, especially because I’m sure it would help me learn to speak it better, but I don’t think I’m going to get too far if I can’t figure out the kanji!  Thanks for your help!  –Emily

A:  Let’s take an English word, let’s say, “read”.   Now, how did you read that word?  Would you have read it any differently this time?  So to re-ask your question, how do you know which one to use in English?

Be genki,


2 Responses to “Which kanji reading to use on-yomi or kun-yomi”

  1. teax2 says:

    In English, you guess by the context of the sentence. “read” can be pronounced “reed” present tense or “red” past tense. Is this what you’re referring to, Richard?

  2. Richard says:


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